LITTLE ROCK - Recently, I had the honor of serving as the keynote speaker for the State DECA Conference in Little Rock. It was a tremendous opportunity for me as I had the opportunity to return to give back to a student organization that is very similar to the student organization that gave so much to me. In High School, I was introduced to an organization known as VOCT which today I believe is now part of SkillsUSA. It was my involvement with this organization where I developed many transferrable skills that are in great demand today as they are part of the "skills gap", which we hear so much about. VOCT helped me develop my confidence, public speaking, writing, networking, collaboration, consensus building, problem solving, leadership, and a passion to serve and make a difference. These youth leadership development organizations are not just effective, they are essential. I'm confident that I would not have achieved the milestones I have achieved had it not been for the opportunities provided to me through VOCT and for the amazing support I received from our sponsor who was also our teacher. He remains one of my most trusted advisors today. The message I shared with the attendees of the DECA conference centered on the acronym L.E.A.R.N.:
Leadership Education Application Resilience Network
I define leadership as the privilege and responsibility to serve and make a difference in the lives of others. My firm, GPA, has a simple mission...To provide a simple and disruptive model to how we develop our talent and our leaders. We call our model, serve2perform, and we teach people and companies how to leverage their service as sources of learning and development.
In terms of education, we should not see it as a destination but rather as a journey where we continue to acquire formal education. This could be an Associate’s Degree, a Bachelor’s Degree, a Technical Degree, Professional Certificates, Certifications, a combination, etc.
Application refers to informal learning or experiential learning. Education provides us with knowledge and experiential learning provides us with wisdom. Its important to have both so that you not only have knowledge but you also know how and when to use it.
Resilience is having the courage to take risks, operate outside of our comfort zone, and to be ok with failing. Each time I’ve failed, I’ve gained significant insight and courage to do more. Failing is part of continuous improvement and innovation.
Networking is essential to having a community of advocates ready to support you and invest in you. I’ve learned that it takes relationships to be effective at getting things done, because every decision one makes effects others. The stronger your relationships, the more informed you’ll be about how to gain support for your ideas and the more willing they’ll be to invest in your idea.
Though the acronym is simple, I know that as long as I continue to L.E.A.R.N., I’ll continue to grow and make a difference. Thank you to everyone who supports DECA and the many other youth development organizations in our state. You are all making a profound difference.